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Client Disclosure Online – The Survey Results

July 16, 2009

Two months ago, I posted this on Twitter: “Doing a survey – will share results. Mandatory for agency people to disclose client r/ships when writing online? Best way how?”

It’s a well-covered topic and from that tweet, I received 17 DM replies and have had follow-up one-one-one conversations with another 7 people. It’s all very unscientific, but these were the results:

– 18  peeps pretty much said yes, absolutely, every time
– 4 said, yes – but only if you’re promoting something you’re working on
– 2 said no – it doesn’t matter/takes up too much space

In terms of how to disclose, this was all over the place, but with a common theme and included:
– disclosure:XX is a client (good for blogs, tough for Twitter)
– disclosure
– disc. client
– #client

Needs disclosure

This Tweet needs disclosure

Two people said that if you need to disclose a relationship, then don’t post about it in the first place! One, an in-house comms pro, said that their company code of ethics forbids them being seen to actively promote their own products online at all.

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association, which every major agency is a member of,  is absolutely clear about agency/client disclosure is required, esp. in the following excerpt:

We comply with FTC regulations that state: “When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product which might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience) such connection must be fully disclosed.”

Despite the delay in posting the results (sorry bout that!), I’m currently seeing an increasing number of tweets, posts, social network status updates etc from agencies promoting client events. One that drives me really crazy is when I know an individual/firm has authored a post/tweet and sent it out from a branded asset (e.g. Twitter), then re-tweeted, or re-posted it through their personal social network. Even with disclosure, this seems questionable.

Where I net out is that I  don’t see a problem promoting client activities, news and events – as long as there is a very clear disclosure about the agency-client relationship that allows the average reader to understand that there might be some form of relationship or commercial consideration driving the post. It’s something that I touched on in my previous post – people deserve at least that level of respect.

The disclosure that I use and have urged everyone at Edelman Asia-Pacific is #client (esp. for twitter), or disclosure XX is an Edelman client.I’m sending another email out today to reaffirm just how important these disclosures are to protect both our client’s brands, as well as our own.

Nobody and no firm is perfect, but constant visibility and reinforcement is crucial. I urge all my fellow agency digital leaders to continue doing similar and take personal responsibility to act as disclosure champions online. In order to have credible social media I really believe it is that important!

Thoughts, as always, appreciated.

Please note: this is a mirror of a post I wrote for the MEDIA blog.

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